Monthly Archives: May 2011

5 Recycled or Natural Craft Books to Keep You and the Kids Busy This Summer

Here comes summer! School is getting out soon and it’s time to figure out how you’re going to keep the kids busy.

Crafts are a great place to start. They encourage kids to be creative. Recycled crafts are even better, as they teach your family how to reused things that might have been trash otherwise. Feed that crafting habit without buying a ton of new supplies. Here are some books that can help you get started.

Craftcycle: 100+ Earth-Friendly Projects and Ideas for Everyday Living
This one has ideas suitable for a wide range of ages, not just young children. It has over 100 ideas for you to try that encourage sustainable living. If you’ve seen those bags made out of old potato chip bags, for example, this book will help you make your own.

Alternacrafts: 20+ Hi-Style Lo-Budget Projects to Make
This book is recommended for grades 8 and up, but crafty kids at younger ages may enjoy it too. The book has a bit of a quirky style, and you’ll learn to make things such as pin-prick cards, pop bottle pendants and more.

Green Crafts for Children: 35 Step-by-Step Projects Using Natural, Recycled, And Found Materials
While not everything in this book is recycled, most of the ideas here will be things you have around the home anyhow. Not like you can recycle the ingredients for salt dough anyhow. Other crafts encourage the use of found materials such as shells, pine cones and tree bark.

Recycled Crafts Box
This book is definitely more for the elementary school set, not so much for older kids. What’s great about this book is that not only does it give you great ideas for recycled crafts, it separates the ideas by the materials and gets into how they’re made and how they’re recycled.

Socks Appeal: 16 Fun & Funky Friends Sewn from Socks
We all have orphaned socks and socks that just don’t fit the kids anymore. Why not have a little fun with them and make toys from those old socks you don’t need anymore?

Socks Appeal has projects suitable for kids and adults who are new to sewing, as well as those with more experience.

9 Tips to Make Your Home Business More Eco Friendly

Lots of stay at home moms run their own business from home too. It’s a nice way to add to the family’s income and enjoy your own interests. When eco friendly living is one of your goals, you should be certain you extend those goals to your home business as well. While in some ways home businesses are already green, using a space you already live in, there’s more you could be doing. Here are some ideas to help.

1. Make sure your niche is eco friendly.

You don’t have to go with specifically environmentally friendly items with your business, but if you’re trying to be eco friendly in your personal life while selling things that are decidedly not eco friendly, how green are you really?

Of course, not all business ideas have much of anything to do with the environment as such. If you’re working as a virtual assistant there are only so many ways to be any more eco friendly than the next virtual assistant. But if you’re selling products, do consider the environmental impact of the products you sell.

2. Do as much as you can online.

You may or may not be able to do all of your business online or over the telephone, but do what you can. Keep in contact with customers through email. Have your website with an eco friendly hosting company. Host Gator and Dreamhost, for example, have programs in place to keep their carbon emissions down, through things such as wind power and carbon credits.

You can do a lot of banking and bill paying online too. If you’re involved in affiliate marketing, you can look into direct deposit for your earnings, rather than having to take checks to the bank. This may be possible with other home businesses too.

3. Choose eco friendly promotional materials.

When you do promote your business offline, look for options that are kinder to the environment, such as mailers made from recycled paper.

4. Minimize printing.

Some people love to print things out. With a little practice, you can devise a filing system on your computer so that you don’t have to print out all the things you receive. Try to only print out the things you actually need to have on paper.

5. Drive only when you have to.

Having a home business doesn’t always mean you don’t drive for your business. Sometimes it’s necessary. You may be involved in a home party plan and have to go to people’s houses, for example, or your business may involve going to see your clients in person.

Try to make the times you must drive more efficient. Walking or taking public transportation aren’t glamorous ways to get there, but they can work when the distances and times are appropriate.

If you need some time to work out of the house, just to get away, think of ways to do that without driving. Is there a park or coffee shop you like to work at that’s in reasonable walking distance?

6. Turn electronics and lights off when not needed.

When you’re done for the day or for a long enough time, make sure to shut down computers, printers and so forth, as well as turn off all the unnecessary lights. A Smart Strip can help to save power by shutting off power to peripheral equipment when you turn off the computer.

7. Recycle your old electronics.

Don’t just throw away old computers, cell phones and so forth when it’s time to replace them. Find out how to recycle them properly. Local governments sometimes have specific days when you can take in electronic waste, or you can check on the EPA website.

8. Add a plant to your office (and elsewhere in your home).

Plants are great. They’re relaxing to look at and they freshen the air in your home. Not only should you keep one or more in your home office, you should get a few for around the house.

9. Go energy efficient.

Energy efficiency isn’t just for lightbulbs, although CFLs or LEDs can be a great choice. It’s also for your computer, where a laptop is typically much more energy efficient than a desktop, and computer monitors can have Energy Star ratings.

4 Books to Help You Refashion and Upcycle Your Wardrobe

Bored with your wardrobe and don’t want to spend a lot of money on new clothes? It may be time to work on your sewing skills and transform your old clothes into something new.

I’m looking at this because my oldest daughter wants to learn to sew anyhow, and old clothes seem like a good place to start. I have a gorgeous old Bernina sewing machine and some basic sewing skills, so we’re ready to start.

Keep in mind that you won’t like every project suggested in these books. They may not be your style, but you can still pick up ideas and techniques.

Sweater Surgery: How to Make New Things with Old Sweaters
Got old sweaters? Find out how to make them into something new that you’ll be happy to wear. The book includes 15 free patterns to get you started. Some readers find the projects a bit challenging, so you may prefer to go with projects geared more toward beginners.

Sewing Green: 25 Projects Made with Repurposed & Organic Materials
This one isn’t entirely about refashioning – many projects suggest buying new fabrics to go with the what you already have. But it has some great ideas for projects you can do with old clothes too.

What’s really great is that the book discusses how to handle the fabrics and has information about eco-innovators. It’s not just a craft book, it’s something to read when you have a little time on your hands.

Little Green Dresses: 50 Original Patterns for Repurposed Dresses, Tops, Skirts, and More
This book is a great help if you want to learn how to make patters to fit you. It gives you an introduction into how to measure, cut and assemble pattern pieces. She also gives a lot of ideas so you can customize each outfit to your own style.

The one weak point is that some patterns in the book require a lot of fabric, so you may not be able to create them by refashioning older clothes. If you would prefer to do work that is more refashioning than cutting used clothes into flat pieces to start nearly fresh with them, it may not be the book for you.

ReSew: Turn Thrift-Store Finds into Fabulous Designs
Want to learn how to take those thrift store finds that weren’t quite right for you and make them work? This could be the book for you. It proves nicely detailed instructions, including what you need to find for each project.

11 Ways to Save Water and Energy While Doing the Laundry

When you have a family, you do a lot of laundry. Laundry uses a fair bit of water and energy, so I decided to share some tips to help you make it a more efficient process.

1. Don’t wash clothes more often than necessary.

Clothes aren’t dirty the instant you put them on. Something you’ve worn for only a short time during the day may not be dirty enough by the time you take it off to go into the laundry pile.

It can be especially hard to convince children that clothes don’t automatically go into the laundry. They may try a shirt on, immediately take it off and throw it into the laundry basket. If you have kids, work with them on that habit. Help them to see that it takes more time than that to get an outfit dirty.

Clothes are of course dirty if they look it or smell dirty. You can also go by the old “if it’s doubtful, it’s dirty” rule for those times you just aren’t sure.

2. Wash full loads whenever possible.

Most washing machines make the best use of water and energy when they’re running a full load. Do your best to wait for enough clothes or other items to make up a full load rather than wash a partial one.

If you need to wash a smaller load, make sure you adjust the water settings on your machine accordingly. There’s no reason to wash a small load of clothes with enough water for a full load.

3. Wash in cold water when possible.

Many times cold water will get your clothes clean enough. This saves on the energy required to heat the water. It’s also more gentle on your clothes. You should be aware that not all laundry detergents work well or dissolve properly in cold water. You can dissolve a powdered detergent in warm water and add it to the machine if necessary. If you’re getting a residue left on your clothes, you may need to continue washing in warm water or try a different detergent. I get good results with Country Save on my laundry. There are also detergents made to work well in cold water.

If cold water isn’t good enough, warm probably is. You should very rarely need to do a hot water wash.

Most modern washing machines always rinse using cold water because there is no reason to rinse the clothes out using hot or warm water.

4. Use an extended spin cycle in your washing machine.

Many washing machines offer an extended spin cycle, which removes more water from your clothes, so they will dry more quickly in the dryer. This takes less energy than running your dryer to get to a similar level of dryness, but you will still need to run them through the dryer to finish the job.

5. Sort clothes by drying time.

Some fabrics dry much faster than others. If you sort by drying time as well as by other factors, you can keep the load in the dryer for the right time for all the clothes, rather than overdrying the clothes that dry quickly.

6. Take advantage of the moisture sensor in your dryer if available.

Many dryers have a moisture sensor, and will dry your clothes only as long as it takes for the load to get dry. Use this option to avoid overdrying your clothes.

7. Remove clothes from the dryer immediately.

Taking the laundry out of the dryer immediately and hanging or folding them promptly helps to limit wrinkling, which means much less time and energy spent on ironing your laundry.

8. Keep the dryer lint trap clean.

Cleaning the lint trap on your dryer after every load doesn’t just make your dryer work more efficiently. It’s also a safety issue, as lint burns relatively easily. You should also regularly check your dryer vent for lint.

9. Line dry when possible.

Line drying your laundry saves a lot of energy and it’s pretty kind to your clothes. It takes a bit of time, but I always chalk that up under “exercise” rather than “inconvenience.”

If you’re worried about crunchy jeans and such, take them in a little before they’re completely dry, and let your dryer finish the job. The fabric will soften up nicely.

10. Move each new load into the dryer as soon as possible.

If you move your freshly washed clothes into the dryer while it’s still warm from the last load, it will use less energy reaching the right drying temperature. It’s a small difference, but you may as well take advantage of it.

11. Buy an Energy Star washer when it’s time to replace your current washer.

No clothes dryers are rated as Energy Star at this time because they all use similar amounts of energy.  Washers, on the other hand, can be Energy Star rated, and that’s something you should consider buying a more efficient machine when you need a new one.

Front loading washing machines are very efficient with their water use, which is a large part of why they have become so popular.

How Eco Friendly Are Your Reading Habits?

I’m something of a voracious reader. One of the first features most people notice in my home is the wall of books in the living room. I do mean wall, as the entire length is covered with tall, full bookshelves. I’ve not made the switch to electronic readers such as the Kindle, partially due to my doubts as to the environmental advantages, but also because I don’t want to buy my whole collection over again.

One thing I like about my reading habits is that they’re pretty eco friendly so far as I can tell. I don’t buy a lot of new books, and when I do, they’re mostly used. That said, here are my tips for keeping your reading habits as eco friendly as possible.

Buy Used

I just said this, but it bears repeating. I may not get to read the newest titles as they come out, but if the book interests me, I get to it eventually.

It’s not always easy to find the right titles when you buy used. There’s a $1 bookstore in my area, but for the science fiction I mostly prefer, the pickings are quite slim. For children’s books, it’s quite a bit better, although there are still some authors whose books I never see there. It’s sure fun to go into a bookstore and be able to tell the kids to go pick 5 books, and still pay less than I would for one book new in many cases.

A better selection can usually be found at more traditional used book stores. Prices are a bit higher, but they’re pickier about what they buy and so you get better titles.

Library sales can be a fun source of books. Not only can you get some really interesting books, you’re helping to support your public library, always a good plan. Prices are usually very good.

Visit the Library

You don’t always have to buy books to enjoy them. You can head out to your local library and borrow them.

This is a great way to check out titles you aren’t sure you’ll like well enough to own or that you aren’t finding at used bookstores. Most public libraries can bring in titles from their other locations for you, so you don’t have to worry about driving long distances if another branch has the title you want.

My local library is about a mile away, so it’s pretty walkable even for the kids in most weather. This helps to avoid the use of my car and it’s pretty good exercise, especially with the hills in my area.

Rent Books

You’ve probably heard of Netflix and similar programs for renting movies. It’s hugely convenient and means you hardly have a need to buy movies to keep in your home. There are similar companies, such as, where you can rent books for a time, no due dates. This is great if you like to take your time reading a new book, and you can choose to buy books when you like them that well.

This isn’t perfect, but few options are. There’s an environmental cost to having the books shipped around. It’s still an interesting option to get access to more titles than you keep in your home. And you don’t even have to make your way to the library.

Loan Books to Trusted Friends

Your books only do so much good sitting on the shelf. While it’s not always easy to loan out the books you love, sometimes you will find a friend you can trust to return the ones you loan to them.

Donate Books You No Longer Need

There comes a time where you no longer want to keep certain books in your collection. That’s the time to donate them to a good cause, whether it’s your local library or some other good cause.

If you prefer, you can also resell your old books. You can take them to a used bookstore or sell them online yourself through sites such as Amazon or eBay.

What Concerns Do I Have About Electronic Book Readers?

Devices such as the Kindle sound like a good way to get to read all the books you want without the use of paper, which isn’t always created in eco friendly ways. That’s what many people love about them. Is mining the materials for electronic readers really better? People talk about Kindles having lower carbon emissions over their lifetime than a book collection, but carbon isn’t all we should be looking at.

The problem I have is in part how people tend to use their electronic devices. Too many people dump their old electronics the instant the new model comes out, even when the old one is working just fine. That’s pretty wasteful. Possibly less wasteful than reading a book once and then getting rid of it, as some do, possibly more wasteful, I haven’t done the calculations.

If you’re considering a Kindle or other ebook reader, think about getting a used or refurbished model. This decreases the price and the environmental impact. Just be sure to dispose of it properly when it reaches the end of its usable lifespan, long before any of my books will.

There are some good arguments that Kindle and similar products are in fact more environmentally friendly than books, and it’s worth considering the information available. Just make sure you make the most of whatever source you have for your reading materials of whatever sort.